"I am the innovator. I am the originator. I am the emancipator," rock-and-roll legend Little Richard once famously self-described. "I am the architect of rock and roll."
That quote from one of music history's most outsized personalities now lends itself to the telling of his life story in a new documentary, Little Richard: I Am Everything. Announced Wednesday (December 16), the film will be produced by Dee Rees (Mudbound, Pariah) and directed by Lisa Cortés (The Apollo). It will be created by Bungalow Entertainment in partnership with Rolling Stone, which will open its archival reportage on the trailblazing icon, as well as interviews with those who knew him. Richard's friends and family are reportedly consulting on the film.
Born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia, in 1932, Little Richard became synonymous with his extravagant presentation, pencil-thin mustache, and howling performance style. Emerging in the 1950s with electric compositions like "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally," both of which became smash hits, Richard challenged many of the conservative conventions of the time, and he was outspoken in the face of rampant homophobia and institutional racism. Often cited as a pioneer of the rock-and-roll genre, he came to inspire a budding generation of artists, including the Beatles, the Kinks, and many more. He died in May at the age of 87, but his mark on the music is still deeply felt.
“There’s a direct lineage from Little Richard to boundary-pushing artists like Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Moses Sumney, Frank Ocean, and Brittany Howard,” Rees said in a statement, per Deadline. “We wouldn’t have the genre-bending musical innovation, electrified performance style, and the proud, identity-forward music culture we have today if Little Richard hadn’t fearlessly chopped a completely different path over new musical and social terrain. Little Richard was always one measure ahead and unafraid to lead from the edge. He created and shared generously even as other artists took credit for his ideas and mimicked his style.”
“There’s that moment when the meteorite that was Little Richard lit up my world,” Cortés added. “Burning bright with a voice that slayed and a pompadour that pridefully sashayed, he inspired me to color outside the lines, and give voice to all who are silenced for being too bold, too Black or too queer. The architect of rock ‘n’ roll, he instantly outpaced what passed for outrageous or transgressive. But that’s only the beginning of the story, and I plan on telling the rest. Together with my trailblazing producer Dee Rees, we are going to reclaim the crown for Little Richard, the undiluted King and Queen of rock ‘n’ roll. Forever may he reign!”